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The Sabres Of Paradise - 'Haunted Dancehall'

Updated: Aug 28, 2021

Album: Haunted Dancehall

Artist: The Sabres Of Paradise

Release Date: November 28, 1994

Genre: Electronic

Length: 1:16:49

Label: Warp Records

Producer: Andrew Weatherall/Jagz Kooner/Gary Burns/Portishead/Scruff

Rolling Stone Top 500 (2012): N/A

Rolling Stone Top 500 (2020): N/A

1,001 Album Book: Yes

Techno and long songs typically don't mix well, but in this Haunted Dancehall, they mix quite nicely...

English electronic group, The Sabres Of Paradise, with their second studio album. Noted as one of the "first techno concept albums" by The Guardian, this record peaked at #57 on the UK Albums Chart but failed to chart in the US.

The moment you press play on this record you know it'll be an experience to say the least. The jungle aquatic sound of the synth playing the same melody throughout "Bubble and Slide" gives the song an almost introduction feel. The track sets up the rest of the album and gives ideas that will be prevalent across the entire record. Even though these sounds are built by synths for the most part, the mechanical sounds bring forth a vibe that is unique to The Sabres Of Paradise. The off-beat hi-hat pattern gives the listener a sense of comfortability while the rest of the song has unnatural sounds.

The second track, cleverly dubbed "Bubble and Slide II" builds on the ideas presented in the first track with expertise. Although there are no lyrics as this is a complete techno album, the singing is done through the different sounds across the length of the song. The slow addition of sounds is exciting and keeps you looking forward to more, while the rest of the song is heavily focused on repetition. Once again, the unnatural mechanical sounds are uncomfortable to the ear, but mixed with the soothing sounds from the other instruments allow this robotic scraping to be enjoyed.

Contrary to most notable techno and electronic music that's releasing now, this album is not something you can see yourself dancing to at the club. The ideas within the record are way too different and produce a different feeling than dance, but rather full attention to the slight genius behind each song. The fact The Sabres Of Paradise can make a track like "Duke of Earlsfield" nearly nine minutes long, but never feel as though it's repetitive and that it continues to build on one idea from the next is impressive. This type of techno is the type that speaks to the audience's soul rather than the hips.

Some tracks have an insane amount of impact, especially "Planet D (Portishead Remix)". The groove from the bass right up front, all with the slight ambient drones behind it and the percussive bongo sounds make this song an epic clean-your-house song. It is slightly repetitive compared to other tracks, but clocking at less than five minutes makes it a worthwhile listen.

Easily the strongest track on the record is track six, "Wilmot". The moment the creepy ghoul-like moans come in, the audience can recognize this as the most popular song on Haunted Dancehall. The groove is very reggae influenced but the way the song sounds is far from reggae. "Wilmot" does a perfect job in explaining what was previously mentioned in that this album isn't for dancing, but for giving your full attention to the sounds. The various noises, differences, additions and enhancements that slowly come and go as the song progresses is a fantastic touch to allow the listener to enjoy each and every second and not get bored.

Unfortunately, boredom is a possibility due to the fact for all the solid exciting tracks like "Tow Truck", "Wilmot", and "Theme". Songs like "Flight Path Estate", "Theme 4", "Bubble and Slide", and "Return to Planet D" are just overall not exciting tracks when compared to the rest of the album. Thankfully, there are those solid songs that make the album an overall joy to listen to, and that's coming from someone that typically doesn't enjoy EDM or techno music that much. It is far from an album I'd gladly put on in my car and jam to on my way to work, but I think in a certain context as a background sound while doing chores, cooking or even while you're showering, it could provide a nice headspace rather than the sound of your thoughts. Because no one wants that, right?...

Favorite Songs: "Wilmot", "Tow Truck", "Theme"

Least Favorite Songs: "Flight Path Estate", "Theme 4", "Ballad of Nicky McGuire"

Production Quality:

  • Mix = 8.5/10 (Fantastic mixing, especially given there are so many different things going on but even the littlest things shine through. Sometimes the sounds do blare through which is uncomfortable but I think that's what they were going for)

  • Innovation = 8/10 (Took various ideas brought forth in the 80s and expanded on them and made them their own)

Songwriting Quality:

  • Arrangement = 7/10 (Able to take long techno songs and make them entertaining across the entire length, but some songs fail to live up to others)

  • Lyricism = 6/10 (No actual lyrics so it's hard to judge this category but I'm looking at it more as an "overall song singing" rather than just a vocalist. Since they are able to make sounds sing to you, I'm giving it above average)

Instrumentation Quality:

  • Vocal Timbre = 7.5/10 (Once again, no actual vocals so this is the sound of the main melody or rhythm)

  • Instrumental Timbre = 7.5/10 (This is the background sounds that accompany the main rhythms or melodies)

  • Group Chemistry = 7.5/10 (This is how well both of those categories combine and how they sound together)

Overall Likability:

  • My Personal Rating = 6.5/10

Overall Rating: 7.35/10

Any confusion on how the rating is weighted/calculated, please look at my "About" page.

Remember this is all my opinion! Let me know if you agree, disagree or have any comments!

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